Andy Milne's Music for the Human Condition - A Little Dapp'll do Y'All
AAJ: Tell us a bit about the evolution of the Dapp concept.
AM: I've had vocalists in the band since 1993 because I recognized that people respond to the human voice differently than they do a saxophone or piano. Eventually the human voice in the band shifted from traditional vocalist to vocalist/MC with Kokayi. I didn't make this shift consciously, I just liked what he did musically and wanted him in the group. As I continue to compose for this particular formation, I realize that making room for a spoken word component allows me to comment directly in verbal language about issues that concern me in the world. I don't think the message of a song like 'Trickle Down,' which I wrote with Bruce Cockburn and Kokayi, would be possible if it were just an instrumental song.
AAJ: Do you have other concepts for other solo projects? Tell us about how the compositional approach will vary between them?
AM: It's so hard to get the music industry to take notice of what I'm doing with Dapp Theory, I don't have the time to embark on other bands. I suppose in time I'll have that luxury and I'm certain the compositional approach will be different, but without knowing what that band is, I can't say how.
AAJ: Are any Dapp tunes written off of jams? Or are they all written out?
AM: Sometimes we just 'go,' but most of the time, we are playing off of a composition, written or unwritten.
AAJ: While no musician particularly wants to tell anyone how to 'listen' to their music, is there any advice you'd consider helpful?
AM: Just don't compare it to Steve Coleman's music. Other than that, don't think 'I don't like hip-hop' when you hear an MC or 'I don't like fusion' when you hear electric bass. Just listen and enjoy. Consider coming to hear us live before making a final judgement. We've got a really diverse fan base that includes people you wouldn't expect would like what we are doing. We've been described as 'the band Miles would have were he alive today', and 'the Weather Report for the new Millennium' and lots of other interesting metaphors in between.
AAJ: What kind of recording technology is Dapp using these days? Hard disc or analog?
AM: We do it all baby. The new CD started out on 2 inch 24 track analog and then we moved to the Tascam MX2424 when we ran out of money and had to get resourceful on the technology tip. My attitude to making commercial recordings is this-since everyone is burning and downloading like crazy, I want to make the best recording possible. I'm speaking both sonically and musically. There are way too many CDs out there and I think if you want people to actually buy your product, you have to consider that they're making a serious choice to buy yours versus some other CD. What's going to make them want to listen to your CD repeatedly?
AAJ: Do you have a home studio? How much unreleased music do you have written or demoed that you'd want to release?
AM: I don't have a home studio per se, although I do have the means to lay down crude tracks. Dapp Theory has a lot of stuff on video that I suppose we could release but that's going to be up to my estate or Sean Rickman's estate once we're dead and gone. Right now, again, I want to focus on releasing material that warrants repeated listening. I think quote unquote jazz artists should think about making recordings like rock records from the 70's, not documenting 'live gigs in the studio.' It's 2003 and even the brokest of musicians has enormous technology at their fingertips. I say let's use it. I'm not saying compromise your music in doing so. I'm just saying we ought to be more selective about what we release. Why do you think people just burn a few songs from a CD and leave the rest? But then again, that's just how I'm feeling today.
AAJ: It's an interesting perspective. Let's shift gears and talk about the working members of your band. Tell us about them and how you found them.
AM: Well, the core of the band is made up of Gr'goire Maret on harmonica, Rich Brown on electric bass and Sean Rickman on drums. I met Gr'goire through Sean, who suggested I call him when we were recording my second CD, New Age of Aquarius. Initially I just had him play on a few tunes but when we had a tour of Canada the following year, Gr'goire asked if he could come on the road. Even though it was not in the budget, I did the math and realized I had to make it possible because he really wanted to be in the band. That means a lot, especially when I guy can play his ass off like Gr'goire.
I met Rich on one of my gigs in Toronto around 1995. I think initially, he was trying to get the gig with Steve, but through the divine order of things, he joined my band in 1999. Initially, he did a demo with us so I could to check him out. I was so impressed, I hired him immediately and the demo became part of the New Age of Aquarius CD.
Sean, I've known since 1996 when he joined 5 Elements, (although we met in DC at a gig of mine a year before). He and Mark Prince, my former drummer, were friends as they're both from DC, so I had been hearing Sean's music way before we met and thought, 'Who is this cat?' Anyway, we developed a close friendship and musical rapport in 5 Elements, so it was an easy transition when I asked him to join Dapp Theory. Plus, Sean had already produced one of my CDs. When he joined the band, we were finishing Y'all Just Don't Know, so he was doing double duty.
We've been flip flopping MC's since Kokayi left the group last year, but I think John Moon, the new cat we are working with, is going to take it to another level. He's got really great instincts.